Pentecost–2012

A Sermon for Pentecost, for the whole season. More or less.

This morning as a call to worship
we used a prayer that always follows
a baptism:
it’s the prayer for the Holy Spirit
to come down, and bless us with gifts.
All during Easter season,
we have been remembering our baptisms,
blessing the water of the baptismal font,
and offering each other crosses with baptismal waters.
After we pray for the Holy Spirit in baptism,
we mark the candidate once more
with the sign of the cross, this time in holy oil.
Each of us who has been baptized,
and again when we are confirmed,
has this prayer offered for them.
And each of us, because of God’s promise at baptism
has received the Holy Spirit.

After Jesus’ resurrection, and just before his Ascension,
He instructed his disciples to wait in Jerusalem for
an empowerment, for the mission and ministries
he expected them to undertake.
I will not leave you as orphans, he says, I will send the Spirit to you.
The Holy Spirit is our energy, our empowerment for ministry.
In some sense, we’ve had the Holy Spirit all our lives,
for the Holy Spirit was present at creation;
it is the Holy Spirit who hovers over the face of the waters
at the beginning of time, the Holy Spirit whose creative breath
moves in and through us, and sustains us.
One of the ways of thinking about the Holy Spirit
is to see the Spirit as energy for life (Krister Stendahl’s expression)
the kind of energy for the abundant life Jesus’ promises.

This morning, we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit
to us, to the church, to empower us,
and energize us for world-changing work.
The Holy Spirit is not bound by
our limitations, our imaginations,—the Holy Spirit is boundless
and moves entirely at God’s will.
The word in Hebrew for Spirit is ruach,
and it means wind, breath, spirit—all three,
so another way of thinking of the Holy Spirit is the breath of God.

When Jesus came to the disciples on the first evening of Easter,
he appeared in their midst and blew on them.
Receive the Spirit, he said. The Spirit that moves in us,
is the same Spirit that moved and breathed in Jesus.
When Jesus talks about the Spirit,
he likens it to wind, and water, to fire, to breath,
to a river of life flowing out of the believer’s heart.
But he also speaks of the Spirit as power,
as profound energy for what he calls us to do.
The Holy Spirit is a gift-bringer, one who empowers the church with gifts,
with every kind of good gift to help us meet the world’s deepest need.
And just as we have heard together over and over again, this Easter
the story of God’s deep generosity, God’s unbounded gifts of grace,
so too, the Holy Spirit’s gifts are
another overflowing of God’s font of blessings.
We live in that flow of gift and blessing; it’s where our life comes from.
Here are gifts unlooked for, unasked for.

The disciples, during those days of waiting
perhaps did not know what they were waiting for.
And when the Holy Spirit did come,
that amazing day, it came with stunning wondrous signs,
as a mighty wind, and tongues of fire.
It came as ecstasy, as wild joy, for the disciples
who experienced it seemed intoxicated to those who saw them.
And the Spirit came with the gift of speech,
for on that day, after that empowerment,
everyone could understand each other,
everyone could hear what the other was saying.
Most of our struggle and conflict
on this planet comes from our inability to understand,
our inability to enter each other’s experience,
our mistaken judgments based on lack of knowledge,
or lack of wisdom, or insight,our inability to communicate.
The Holy Spirit comes to help us with all of that,
in our own lives and for the sake of the world.

The Spirit empowers us to bring in the kingdom of God,
for the kingdom of God is not something we experience after death.
It’s a possibility for this world, for this time and place;
it’s something always coming toward us,
always arriving. The whole point of baptism
is to bring in the kingdom of God, resurrection life, in the here and now.

There are global and cosmic dimensions to the Holy Spirit’s coming.
As intimate as our breathing, the Spirit prays within us
even when we cannot, with sighs too deep for words.
The Spirit knows the mind of God, and searches it,
and teaches us, advocates for us, energizes us, renews us,
puts flesh on our dry bones,
and in some powerful and wonderful way,
inhabits us, as God’s presence.
The Spirit moves with the whole of creation
through the entire cosmos, and groans with birth pangs
as God makes all things new.

Pentecost comes; it came then,
and it comes now to every person who loves God;
it comes to every person who follows Christ.
It comes to every church gathered in the name of Christ.
The Holy Spirit leads and guides us;
it led and guided the people of Israel through the wilderness,
going before them as a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night.
The Spirit of the Lord comes to everyone God invites into relationship.
“you are my people,” God says. “And I will be your God.”
From the beginning, God sent the Spirit to our ancestors,
breathing life into Adam and Eve, sending it on
to Abraham, and Sarah, to Issac and Rebekah, Jacob and Rachel,
and Leah, all those forefathers and foremothers,
to Miriam, and Hannah, and Deborah,
to King David, to the prophets from the greatest to the least,
to barren women and foreigners, to kings and to slaves,
to fishermen and tentmakers, to all the people God called over
these many thousands of years to do his work, to come and follow,
to live in communion with him.

The Spirit comes to us now,
here to St. Paul, as the spirit comes to every church,
with gifts of life, with gifts for ministry
offering and giving, outpouring generosity.
God sends us the energy and power and gifts
we need to do his will and his work in the world with
the Spirit of truth, the spirit of joy.
Are our spirits flagging? Our sense of mission dimmed?
are we worried, or anxious, or uneasy? Do we lack vision,
or imagination? Are we fearful? Ask for the Spirit,
and the Spirit will come—because God promises it.
The Spirit comes to our meetings, to our Councils,
as the Spirit will come to our Assembly in a few weeks,
when we elect a new bishop.
The Spirit comes to our littlest ones, our families, our youth,
as Peter preaches this morning: God pours out God’s spirit,
on our sons and daughters, our elders, men and women—
upon all who call upon the name of the Lord.

Today, in keeping with our renewal of baptism,
remember the Holy Spirit is always renewing us,
coming as life, breath, holy fire, holy power.
Know that we are filled with that Spirit;
by God’s promise and God’s gift, the Spirit
lives and moves within us, and within this church.
Jesus sends us the Holy Spirit and gives it the name of Comforter,
and Advocate—it is that Spirit who gives us the courage and faith,
fortitude, wisdom, awe and joy,
to go out and tell the good news of God’s love to everyone we meet.
May we be such a joyful people, empowered as Jesus was,
with holy energy, holy love and holy truth
for the sake of the world. Amen

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